CONYERS - If Heritage is to defend its Area 8-AAAA championship, Wednesday was a good start.
Taylor Bailey had six kills and Rachel Jubran polished off an excellent night with 10 assists as the Patriots defeated Clarke Central, 25-17, 25-10.
Clarke Central looked to be in good shape early in game one, jumping out to a 9-6 lead thanks to nine Heritage errors. In fact, midway through the game the Gladiators were tied at 15-15 despite getting just three offensive points on kills from Kalyn Breeding, KeeKee Willingham and Jillian Anderson.
Heritage took over from there, rattling off six consecutive points to seize control. During the spurt, Jubran set up Bailey for a kill and polished off the run with a service ace to make it 21-15. Clarke Central grabbed two more points off errors from Arabia Umrani and Bailey, but Jubran found Umrani and MiKayla Charles for kills to finish the 25-17 win.
The Patriots found themselves trailing again early, 5-4, but scored eight of the next nine points (Jubran assisted on kills to Bailey, Umrani, Kacie Bradley and Olivia Wasdin) to go up 13-5 and force a Clarke Central timeout. The break didn't help. Jubran made her presence felt again down the stretch, assisting on two kills from Charles and one each from Umrani and Bailey.
"Both of them have worked real hard in the off-season to improve their skills," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said of Jubran and Bailey. "(Success) still comes from the pass."
Heritage also picked up two non-area wins over Tucker, 25-12 and 25-20. In the opening game, the Patriots trailed early, 1-0 and 3-2, but took the lead for good with the help of the relentless Jubran. During a 9-3 run, Jubran assisted on four kills and had two aces and a kill of her own to put Heritage ahead 11-6. Tucker got as close as 11-8 before Heritage embarked on a 14-4 run to close the game.
Game two was much tighter as Tucker built a 13-7 lead thanks to the play of setter Cailey Forstall, who assisted on four kills, two each to Serena Clark and Latifah Barnett, and added a service ace during the run that forced Buddenbaum to burn a timeout.
"We weren't playing anywhere near what we expect that match and I let the girls know it," Buddenbaum said of the early struggles in game two. "One of the things we have to focus on is playing hard all the time."
Jenny Chapman took over after the timeout, serving during a 7-0 run and picking up three aces, while Jubran found Bailey for a thunderous spike that gave Heritage a 14-13 cushion. The teams traded points and were tied at 15-15 when Heritage libero Hillary Norman had a kill off a tremendous save and pass from Jubran for a 16-15 lead. The Patriots wouldn't trail again, taking advantage of seven Tucker errors to polish off the 25-20 victory.
"We served real well in game one; (game two) we tried to do a little too much," said Buddenbaum. "It was just a matter of focus. But it's a win and that's our goal to win every match. We did what we were supposed to do, we won, but there's room for improvement."
Heritage is off until Saturday when it'll host the Play for the Cure Play Date. The Patriots open with Prince Avenue Christian at 9, and play five other teams. The play date is part of a statewide fundraising effort for the benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer organization.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org